Christmas traditions were everything to me as a child. On the first Saturday in December, my family and I would pile into our bright blue minivan and head out to find our Christmas tree, the centrepiece of the forthcoming festivities. Dressed warmly in layers, we’d board the bumpy tractor at the tree farm and ride down into the dense, green and white valley with other families on the same pursuit. Weaving through endless snowy pathways lined with spruce and pine trees, my brother and I would search for the tallest, fullest, and most handsome one. When we found it—as the older sister, I proved particularly skilled at selecting the best each year—my dad would crouch down in the snow and saw methodically at the trunk until the tree fell. We always yelled timber. (You have to yell timber.) Afterwards, we’d retreat to the lodge and eat chili out of styrofoam bowls.
Then one year my parents brought home a faux tree, abruptly ending my favourite annual activity. I cried in my hot chocolate. How could they just abandon our tradition? The new synthetic tree was skinny and gaudy, a seven-foot department store atrocity with short, bright green needles that looked as phony as this new tradition felt. I hated it.
But that was just an adolescent girl learning one of life’s hard truths: not all traditions last forever. Sometimes they end and it stings, piercing the soul with a sharp prick of emptiness. And it’s not just holiday traditions, but everyday ones, too: Sunday dinners that were once the setting for upbeat family banter are now a quiet, twoperson affair; an annual camping trip up north with college pals cancelled due to busy work schedules.
Traditions fizzle for so many reasons. My family didn’t suddenly unravel one winter, but my brother and I had basically outgrown the act, opting to spend time with our friends rather than pile into the family van for an afternoon with Mom and Dad.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the other, more pleasant half of that lesson: when a tradition ends, it’s canonized, saved on the mind’s hard drive as a cherished memory to be replayed again and again. The tradition becomes elevated, placed on a pedestal with a “Reserved for Most Prized Nostalgia” sign hanging on it. And also, perhaps even more important, is the fact that one tradition ending makes room for a new one. It’s about embracing changes, and accepting the new with wide-open arms.
Nowadays, my family takes part in new holiday traditions, like suiting up for a Christmas morning run around town, followed by a wine tasting of the best bottles my parents have collected during their travels abroad. And although I no longer board that tractor on the first Saturday in December in search of the perfect pine, the memory remains one of the fondest from my childhood. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll have my own family to bundle up and bring to the tree farm. But for now, I look forward to that glass of Bordeaux, and discovering each new tradition as it comes.